Rupert Potter

Rupert Potter

British Consul General, Vancouver

Part of UK in Canada

14th October 2015 Vancouver, Canada

Freud and the Fascination of LNG

The Dragon LNG import terminal at Milford Haven, Wales (Photo:  BG Group)
The Dragon LNG import terminal at Milford Haven, Wales (Photo: BG Group)

“So what do you want to talk about?”  My therapist looks at me over his half-moon glasses with a practiced benign smile, and strokes his greying beard.

Opposite him, on a couch large enough for my extended family, I tally the pros and cons of continuing.  Why not?  It’s my time after all.  “LNG.”


“LNG.  Liquified Natural Gas.”

He turns to the usual therapists’ playbook whenever there’s nothing obvious to say.  “Ok, go on.”

“The thing is, whenever I mention LNG, to my friends or colleagues or anyone at all, they glaze over.  I can see it in their eyes, they lose interest before I’ve started.  I worry it’s damaging my relationships.”

“I see,” he says, although I’m not sure he does.  I’ve almost lost him already.  And I’m paying.

“I really need to talk to someone, it’s just difficult when no-one’s listening.”

“And why do you think that is?”  He asks a bit too pointedly, as though the reason is obvious.

“I don’t know.  Maybe it sounds boring.  Or maybe they don’t understand.”


“But it’s not boring it all.  It’s really simple, yet incredibly complex, all at once.”

I might just have managed to hold his attention with this statement.

“You take natural gas out of the ground, pipe it into a big freezer until its liquid, and then ship it to whoever needs it.  Energy.  Heating.  Electricity.  Simple.”

I take a sip of my coffee – it’s one of the reasons I chose this therapist – good coffee.

“And it’s amazing.  It’s cooled to minus 162 degrees C.  Imagine how cold that is.  Then as a liquid it takes up 1/600th of the space.  And apparently it produces about 50% of the CO2 emissions of coal for a similar amount of power.  It’s estimated that global demand will double, roughly, by 2030.

“But the thing is the whole LNG industry is incredibly complex.  The engineering in one plant alone is miraculous.  Isambard Kingdom Brunel would be amazed.  You’ve got to have genius engineers.  I mean real quality.

“Then there’s market dynamics – oil linked prices, spot trading, long term contracts?  The price of LNG varies and the causes are as complex as airline seat pricing.  You can sit next to someone in the same sized chair going to the same place, yet pay a whole lot more or a whole lot less.

“Then there’s social licence, relationships with local communities, power generation, carbon emissions management, regulatory approval processes.  Its mind-bending how much there is to think about.  And don’t get me started on financing.”

The expression on his face suggests he has no intention of getting me started on financing.  In fact he’d be relieved if I didn’t.  But I’m on a roll now.

“The costs of these plants runs into billions.  And companies have to spend a lot before they’re even sure they can go ahead.  The figures are astronomical.  Which reminds me, it’s as vast and fascinating as astronomy.”

The therapist stares at me, with a Freud like intensity.  “But why should people be interested?”

I’m confused.  Surely I’ve just said why.

“Why does it matter?” he persists.  “Why should anyone care?”

“Why should they care?”  Now I’m angry.  In a therapy session I suppose that’s a good thing.  “Why should something need to matter personally for us to care?  Can’t we just be amazed?”

“Ideally.  But generally people care more if it concerns them.”

“Well that’s a shame.  But fine.  People should care because it’s about their energy security, their environment, their government’s ability to spend on public programmes.  These things matter.  And that’s true for the UK or Japan, Canada or China or the US.  It’s about heating in winter or power for homes.  I’m not saying we have to agree on everything.  But we should at least try to understand.  And I still come back to my point about it being fascinating.”  I murmur the last sentence grudgingly.

“And how do you feel now you’ve said all that?”

“Better I guess.”

“Well that’s good.”

Hmmm.  I still don’t feel satisfied though.  Now, who else can I talk to about this?

Footnote: this conversation only occurred in my head of course; although the fact that it did suggests maybe I actually need a therapist.

2 comments on “Freud and the Fascination of LNG

  1. re: Freud and the Fascination of LNG

    Such amusing and insightful writing! Now why aren’t we seeing daily articles in the Vancouver Sun by Rupert Potter?

    Oh, that’s right. He already has a job. 😉

    Anyway, good stuff.

    A. Lawrence

  2. An intriguing title for this blog. With the mention of Freud, one thinks – L : maybe language, lifestyle was not in use in Freud’s day. Love?? Libido?? N = possibly nudity, naturism, narcism ??
    G could possibly be gender?? God image ??
    As a former industrial chemist, I am familiar with the abbreviation LNG as used in this blog – but am also aware of another aspect of the “chemical” LNG – the risks of transporting and storing it – the blog mentions one aspect of this – condensed LNG has a volume one six hundreth of the gaseous product. The blog does not mention that mixtures of LNG and air are highly explosive – so one of the risks with storage & transport is the possibility of a BLEVE. A BLEVE in HAZMAT terms is a Boiling Liquid, Explosive Vapour Explosion. There have been several interesting incidents during the transport of LNG & similar products like liquified propane or liquified butane, where BLEVEs have wiped out transport or storage tankers, or entire trains, sometimes with loss of life, but always with plenty of drama.
    Yebo LNG and BLEVE.

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About Rupert Potter

Rupert Potter has served as British Consul General in Vancouver since July 2012.